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Russian influence increases in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, May 13
The survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute ( NDI) reveals that greater part of Georgia’s population remains faithful to the Euro-Atlantic path.

However, the public polls also portray an increasing number of those preferring the Russian-founded Eurasian Union.

The survey was conducted from March 27 to April 19, 2015 through face-to-face interviews with 4,360 individuals, and reads that 31% of the questioned people approve the membership of the Eurasian Union, while 65 % are for continuing with Georgia’s NATO ambitions.

Only 11 % of the interviewees believe that Georgia can get some profit from Russia in the case of changing its current course.

Commenting on the figures, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that 31% is an important signal to all political groups, for which the Western choice is a strategic one.

“I believe that all political forces in Georgia, which clearly see the irreversibility of our European and Euro-Atlantic integration, must consolidate to further cement this idea,” said the President.

Analysts believe that the increase in the number of supporters of the Eurasian Union is the merit of two factors: an increasing number of Russian investments, and the so called “soft power” that might become as dangerous as any military intervention.

80% of interviewees think that Russia influences Georgia; 76% out of the number describes the influence as negative.

The opposition United National Movement claims that the growing tendency towards the Eurasian Union is the outcome of the two-year ruling period of the Georgian Dream government.

UNM MP Goka Gabashvili says that the current authorities have empowered Russian sentiments in the country.

“Together with the economic downfall this is one of the major threats for Georgia. The increasing Russian influence on Georgia will lead only to unfavorable consequences,” Gabashvili says.

Analyst Amiran Giguashvili links the increase of the Russian influence to the socioeconomic problems in Georgia.

“This is the major factor that is followed by a purposeful anti-European campaign. One thing is declaring the Western orientation and speaking about high standards and values. However, all the talks lose their power when people starve. No one is interested in supreme values when his family has nothing to eat,” Giguashvili says. The analyst believes that solving economic troubles will trigger pro-Western aspirations best of all.

Fellow analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili believes that the 31% have no accurate information about the Eurasian Union.

“I think that greater part of the people has nostalgia of the Soviet Union, where everybody had jobs and income. The public should be more informed concerning the current developments in Russia and the situation of the states that have been united in the Eurasian Union,” Tsiskarishvili said, noting that the survey should be used as a signal by the current government on how to change the situation for any following polls.

Analyst Zaal Anjaparidze considers that under the current government, Russia restored its broadcasting to Georgia that enabled the country to use its information levers here.

“The information campaign has played an important role, as well as active performance of pro-Russian organizations in various regions. The result is that the positive attitude to the Eurasian Union has increased. The government and the Georgian media outlets should work harder in order to overshadow the growing tendency,” Anjaparidze says.

It is likely that the outcomes of the survey might encourage the pro-Russian forces more and give them power to strengthen their activities.